By Judy Brandon: CNJ religion columnist
Sometimes I use these words loosely when I hear of another’s troubles: “I’ll pray for you.”
In my life, I have often been remiss in daily, contemplative prayer.
My mother spent many younger days with her best friend Dorothy Starnes at her home in Crosstown, Tenn. As a child whose mother had died, my mother welcomed the warm and loving hospitality that Dorothy’s mother showed her. Ruth Starnes treated my mother just like another daughter.
The Starnes family lived far from town in this rural part of Tennessee, so living in the country, the girls — my mother was 8 at the time — had to use their imagination to come up with their own entertainment. They found all kinds of things to do, including swimming and swinging from sturdy and heavy grapevines that lined the creek bank.
One day, the two girls considered imitating Hollywood stars. Because they had seen some news article about the glamour in Hollywood, their intrigue with the entertainment world was stirred. So the girls created a loosely constructed hay stage in the barn. When they got their pretend stage just right, they dressed up in Mrs. Starnes’ old clothes and dreamed they were Hollywood celebrities. They sang and danced before a pretend audience. They kicked their legs high and danced to tunes on an old crank phonograph.
Their lure to the fantasy of a make-believe Hollywood production satisfied and thrilled the two girls for most of the day. But when nighttime came, their temperament changed.
That night a calamitous thunderstorm descended upon the area. Warnings of a possible tornado were echoed all over the community. When the two girls heard the storm and crash of thunder, both mother and Dorothy in their childish minds feared the Lord was disciplining them for their worldliness in the barn that day. So both girls ran to Mrs. Ruth to pray for their safety and the safety of the house.
To these two little innocent girls, Mrs. Ruth was the wisest and most wonderful woman. She knew the Lord was not chastising them for their childish behavior. Yet she thought it a good time to make a point about prayer. She pulled the girls into her arms and said: “Sisters I prayed today when the sun was shining; I am not afraid for our safety now. Go on to bed and don’t worry — we are all safe.”
A distinct impression was made on me when my mother told me that story about her childhood. She said that in the midst of taking care of children, doing farm chores, managing a household and doing all the things that a mother had to do during the day, Mrs. Ruth regularly and without fail went into the bedroom each afternoon to pray. Amid children and chores, the habit of daily prayer at home was paramount in her busy schedule. And when the bedroom door was closed each afternoon around 2 p.m., the children knew not to bother Mrs. Ruth because that was the hour that she prayed.
I think of Mrs. Starnes today when I tell someone I will pray for them. I should not use those words loosely. God hears our prayers, whether in a magnificent temple, in a beautiful cathedral, in a closet or in a simple little bedroom. God hears our prayers and we are better off for it.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org